November 30, 2022

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The Martian moon is covered in mysterious structures.  We have a possible explanation

The Martian moon is covered in mysterious structures. We have a possible explanation

In about a hundred million years, Phobos will crash into the surface of Mars and will likely turn into a cloud of dust and debris circling the Red Planet. This would be the result of the gravitational influence exerted by Mars, and we can already observe the first effects of this phenomenon. At least that’s what a team of astronomers led by Bin Zheng of Tinghua University and the University of Arizona said.

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The appearance of this effect is likely to be visible on the surface of the grooves. These grooves cover the entire surface of Phobos. Mars’ two largest natural satellites complete an orbit in 7 hours and 39 minutes. It approaches its host at a rate of about 1.8 cm per year. It seems that the short distance between the two objects leads to changes in the surface of Phobos and the formation of small grooves.

Phobos is the largest of the two moons orbiting Mars

The publication on this topic is already available on the pages Planetary Science Journal. Interestingly, it is not yet clear whether the current formation and interactions between Phobos and Mars can lead to the observed streaks. In 2018, a hypothesis emerged that the canyons would form in the presence of rolling rock.

Therefore, Cheng’s team performed 3D mathematical modeling, focusing on the effect of gravity on Phobos-like objects. In most cases, the simulations suggested that tidal forces caused the upper layer to separate and form parallel gullies. As a result, loose regolith fell into the fissures below, creating structures similar to those already observed.

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Some differences appeared in the region around Phobos’ equator. There, the simulation results do not match reality. According to the authors, the lessons learned can be applied to other moons, such as Neptune’s Triton. However, for Phobos, samples collected as part of the mission planned by the Japanese space agency may be useful.